Book Review: The Wasp Factory

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Traffic cancelled my appointment so I went to do some retail therapy which includes the purchase of cute office stuff and this thrifted book. I’ve often noticed Iain Banks’ books at my favorite secondhand bookstore and this is one of those rare moments that I decided to try reading his work. Luckily, I chanced upon his first novel and I didn’t expect to enjoy it despite the disturbing premise.

I wrote in my GoodReads account that this book is “Disturbingly odd yet highly intriguing” which is really how I feel the whole duration I’ve read the book. The story is told from the first person perspective of Frank Cauldhame, a 16 or 17 year old teenage boy, who lives a seemingly ordinary life yet it’s a far cry from what you call normal. How can a teenager be normal when he has killed three children even before he turned ten? It’s a bit funny that he considers himself sane compared to his brother, Eric. It’s an irony of all sorts when he is even psychotic than him.

Aside from killing children, he also kills animals and tortures them. Frank also maintains a ritual wherein his captured wasps will be undergo a torture factory made from an old clock face. Hence, the title “The Wasp Factory”. Despite all his disturbing deeds, I don’t feel any remorse or guilt from Frank. It’s as if killing and torturing these animals and children is a normal act.

“A death is always exciting, always makes you realise how alive you are, how vulnerable but so-far-lucky; but the death of somebody close gives you a good excuse to go a bit crazy for a while and do things that would otherwise be inexcusable. What delight to behave really badly and still get loads of sympathy!”

One thing I enjoyed about this book is the lack of conscience of Frank and also the ending. The last chapter gave the story a proper conclusion and explanation on Frank’s life, his family, and his deeds. It is a satisfying ending to a disturbing beginning.

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